John Michael Steiner Ph.D. (1925 - 2014)
Passed away peacefully at home on May 6, 2014, aged 88, surrounded by his loving family. Always striving for deeper, meaningful human connection, John Steiner was unwilling to settle for superficiality. He was defined by the ordeal of surviving the Nazi camps during the Holocaust in his teenage years, losing his mother and nearly all of his family. Driven by humanistic principles and a lifelong urge to understand, in order not to hate, John Steiner's story is unique in that he tracked down and interviewed many former perpetrators in West Germany. Transgressing academic disciplines, he studied and taught for several decades at Sonoma State University and as founding Director of its Holocaust Studies Center. Born in Prague on August 3, 1925, John Steiner grew up in a German-speaking, middle-class family. Following the communist rise to power in Czechoslovakia in 1948, he emigrated to Australia, but left his new home behind to receive a scholarship and his M.A. (class of 1956) from the University of Missouri, where he majored in German literature and sociology, before moving to Berkeley to lecture at the University of California. The cornerstone of John Steiner's later career was laid by a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, by means of which he came to Germany to begin his research on the perpetrators of the Holocaust, graduating in 1968 with a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Freiburg. It was also there that he met his wife, Ulrike. John Steiner returned to the Bay Area as a Professor at Sonoma State University, moving to Novato in 1974. Over the years, he touched the lives of countless students, many of whom were deeply influenced by his classes. Even after his retirement in 1992, he continued his research, publishing and lecturing to a wide range of audiences, both in the US and Germany. His many distinctions include two Fulbright scholarships and the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. To the very end, he toiled to avert future fascism and genocide by educating on the lessons of the Holocaust. He did what he could. John Steiner is survived by Ulrike and her sisters, Christiane and Franziska, his son Ingmar, his daughter-in-law Darja, and his grandsons Demian and Yulix. He will be sorely missed. Memorial to be held at Keaton's Redwood Chapel of Marin, 1801 Novato Blvd, Novato, CA 94947, on June 11 at 1 p.m. Photo by Evvy Eisen.
Published Online in the Press Democrat from June 8 to June 9, 2014